Food is Morally Neutral: Disordered Eating & Intuitive Eating


Food is Morally Neutral: Disordered Eating & Intuitive Eating

Meeting impossible, arbitrary standards of beauty has damaged our relationship with food

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss



Years of diet culture and internalized fatphobia have created disordered eating in many people, no matter their size. This is evident in the U.S. with the realization decades ago that even men suffer from eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.



If your dietary goals revolve around losing weight and changing your body, try to create overall health instead. This is the better path to take.

Many healthy individuals, those who go the gym every day, count calories, and feel they are doing everything right, still can struggle with food obsession, disordered eating, and eating disorders.


Food Guilt & Shaming Oneself

Food guilt is the feeling that we've done something wrong by eating or not eating certain foods. So, a common expression of this guilt or shame is eating food secretly and quickly when nobody is around.

This habit may continue for many years because it lets us fool ourselves into believing that we have not eaten anything "forbidden."

What can develop is a conditioned pattern, with underlying feelings of shame and anxiety about being discovered. Eating "unhealthy" food can come with this same shame. If you try to overcompensate and restrict yourself to make up for these "failures," a vicious cycle can begin.

If you find yourself eating in response to emotions like disappointment, anger, stress, nervousness, or excitement, this is a first step in recognizing eating unconsciously instead of intuitively.

People with eating disorders find statements regarding the moral integrity of foods very triggering, and most have some degree of perfectionism.

Intuitive eating asks us to step back and recognize that food is morally neutral.


Food Neutrality

When we intentionally or unintentionally categorize food as "good" or "bad," we assign moral value to it. No single food holds superior nutritional or moral value over another.

Food is morally neutral, and there is no need for shame from yourself or others. No foods are inherently "good," "bad," "healthy," or "unhealthy."

Begin to recognize your emotional triggers and shame around food. Be brave enough to call out others who make comments that create shame around food or body size.


Unhealthy Eating & the Body as Enemy

Little would one think, but men also suffer from eating disorders - it's not just a problem among teenage girls and women.

Men are equally susceptible to ideal body images that are difficult to achieve. Leading experts in eating disorders suggest that as many as one in five young men derive extreme distress from the shape and size of their bodies.

Males with eating disorders have been "relatively ignored, neglected (and) dismissed," said Dr. Arnold Anderson, a psychiatry professor at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, in the Psychiatric Times.

Eating disorders are categorized into seven types: Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating disorder, Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, Pica, Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED), and Orthorexia.





Trauma & the Body being perceived as an Enemy

Eating disorders result in a person being both the weapon and the victim. Clearly, the man or woman afflicted with an eating disorder sees the body as the enemy and is lost in a never-ending cycle of wanting to self-punish by controlling his/her food intake.

We all try to somehow control or avoid pain, and in doing so, we think life will become manageable. The need for control over food becomes primary for people suffering from eating disorders. This, in turn, results in denying one's own nutritional well-being.

The relationship with food becomes the focal point for survival. Restricting and/or binging behaviors gradually consume more and more internal resources.


Eating Disorder Statistics

Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide.

For example, 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.

They are among the deadliest mental illnesses, with 10,200 deaths each year. One death every 52 minutes is a direct result of an eating disorder.

The economic cost of eating disorders is $64.7 billion every year. As well as financial expenses, eating disorders result in a significant loss of well-being value – estimated at $326.5 billion in the U.S. in the 2018-19 fiscal year.


What is Intuitive Eating?

By embracing intuitive eating, you can solve this negative cycle of restriction and overindulgence.

Why not just enjoy your food, listen to your body, and stop eating when your hunger cues signal "satisfaction?"

Intuitive eating helps to reset unhealthy eating habits and a poor relationship with food in a new way. You will reshape old ideas about food and eating through forgiveness and acceptance of yourself and develop an improved ability to recognize your body's needs.


Adopting new Attitudes | Steps to an Appreciation of Eating


  • Discover your satisfaction factor
  • Listen to your body
  • Feel your fullness
  • Remove any shame
  • Challenge your "food police" friends
  • Make gentle nutrition choices



Gaining freedom from the painful and repetitive struggles and life interruption that accompanies eating disorders is critical.

Eating disorders probably have been occurring since the creation of beauty standards. However, if we allow ourselves to acknowledge our disease, eating disorders will lose their power.



If you can learn to feel guilt-free pleasure in eating, your body will be better able to tell you when you've had enough. Rather than setting goals to be 100% perfect, listen to your body and follow your internal hunger cues.






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